In "Mittelmaß und Wahnsinn" (Mediocrity and Madness), I tend to struggle with many things around how we manage Human Resources in our big organisations. The notion that humans should not be reduced to being mere resources like -- say -- a waggon load of steel is hardly new but things are hardly changing, too. Well, some of these "resources" are a bit scarce these days (like software developers) but quite often, they are nevertheless being regarded as resources. Not to speak about less scarce ones. One consequence of this attitude is that more often than not our HR systems (from recruiting to assessment to promotion) are designed to foster "better clones" instead of accommodating the troll extraordinary. Here's a quote from the book:
On average above average
"Thus we distribute around the average. She or he is creative but lacks specific expertise. Highly skilled but with weaknesses in communication. Innovative but not so efficient. Cost conscious but a bit uninspired. Assertive but not so much of a team player. A strong networker but without too much drive ... . So the arithmetic mean varies by default around 100%.
Consequently the top performers are those who are on average above average. Our established systems -- fro recruiting to remuneration -- are set to lift this mean of means. But excellence develops differently. Do we value the piano virtuoso by his mathematics skills and how he does his housework: piano 160%, calculus 70%, vacuum cleaning 70% -- average 100%. Or the pop star by strategic vision and affability: performing 200%, strategy 20%, kindness 20% -- average 80%. ... True excellence does not emerge from averagely above-average talents working alongside. True excellence stems from collaboration of great talents from different areas."
Just recently I watched "Bohemian Rhapsody". In one scene Freddie Mercury, desperate to become reunited with the rest of his band, complains about the musicians supposed to support him in his attempt of a solo career: "They are doing exactly what I tell them". These musicians are good, no doubt. But what makes the difference is the disaccord his fellow band members dare to express, their diversity ... and the trust they have developed with each other. This points to another popular but flawed paradigm: It's not the one superstar, the lonesome hero that makes the difference.
It is the difference that makes the difference.